The following reflection was written by Pamela Stein, a volunteer at the Southland Church Community Garden. This piece was printed with permission from A Million God Stories.
For years, my dad grew zinnias for me every summer at our family farm. Dad and I would go to the farm nearly every week throughout the summer and harvest the zinnias. I had bouquets of these colorful flowers in my house and in my office. The flowers made me smile. When I looked at the zinnias, I was reminded of my dad and also of my heavenly Father and His beautiful creation. My dad passed away the last week in October in 2016. It was the last week of the zinnia harvest on our farm. We cut a final bunch of zinnias to be displayed at the church at his funeral. He would have loved that.
My dad and I were very close. We were both dentists and practiced together for years. I have missed him terribly since the day he died, but as summer approached, my grief rose to a new level. The family farm was sold in June. My dad was gone, the farm was gone, and there would be no zinnias this year. But then our church announced the need for volunteers in the community garden. I asked if I might have a row in the garden to plant some zinnias and was permitted to do so. Two months later, hundreds of beautiful zinnias were blooming in the garden.
There were so many flowers! We wanted to share! The church gave me permission to cut the zinnias to share with residents at a local nursing home. At first, I just made flower arrangements for the dining room and common spaces. But then I found out from our church care team that there were a few residents in local nursing homes that had requested visitors. The care team suggested that I take some of the zinnias to these residents.
My children went with me to take the flowers to the first nursing home resident on our list to visit. We walked down the long corridor of the nursing home with a beautiful bouquet of zinnias, looking for her room. We finally located her room and peeked inside. Sitting beside her bed was a woman I had known for many years. She was a dear friend of my father’s! She and her sister, who was the resident we were delivering the flowers to, grew up in the same small community with my dad. She was thrilled to see us and introduced all of us to her sister. “This is Bobby’s daughter and grandchildren!” Her older sister smiled. She had suffered a stroke and was not able to communicate, but her twinkling eyes said it all. I put the flowers on her bedside table and held her hand. She smiled at me and then with a frail hand, she reached up an touche my hair.
We stayed a bit and visited. As we left, I thought about what had just happened. The first person to receive the zinnias we grew in memory of dad was someone who grew up with him in his small community many miles away. Because she couldn’t communicate, I would have never known that she knew Dad if her sister, my dad’s dear friend, hadn’t been visiting her at the moment we arrived with the flowers. God was in that moment.
Since then the flower ministry has blossomed. We now have a small group of women of all ages from the church that meets every week to tend the flowers and make arrangements to bless even more nursing home residents. he residents and the employees light up when we arrive with the flowers. They call us the "Flower Girls." Over and over they have told us how they love the flowers and how much they appreciate it.
My hope is that next year the flower ministry will grow and that we can share the flowers with more nursing home residents. ut I will never forget the first resident that we visited and the connection to my dad. What a gift it was to me to give the flowers to someone who knew and loved my father. He would be so happy that this dear woman was the first recipient of the zinnias we grew because of him!